God Without Borders

“That’s actually a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with leading with your faith…If we do not live our lives and vote like we are nationalists—caring about our country, and putting our country first and wanting that to be the focus of our federal government—if we do not lead that way, then we will not be able to fix it.” — Marjorie Taylor Greene

So, the Georgia representative wants Christian nationalism. To understand the implications we should probably define our terms. Nationalism can be defined as the “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.

So, let’s break down what this means for the United States. Essentially, if you take it to its logical conclusion it would be mean being out of most alliances. It would mean an end to the United Nations and NATO. It would mean an end to foreign aid. It would mean only being involved with other nations exclusively when it benefits us somehow. We’ve done this before. It didn’t work out well the first time, but it ignores something huge.

I know everyone is shocked to hear this, but I’m guessing the notorious MTG and her compadres haven’t done any heavy reading of the New Testament. Those who know the text know there is an important transformation that occurs. Yahweh (the God of the Jews) was a nationalistic God for the Hebrew people. We enter the New Testament under the same understanding. Jesus is the King of the Jews.

Yet, something funny happens along the way. When Jesus speaks to the woman at the well in the book of John he reaches a realization. He is here for everyone and not just the Jews. The way the story is written, it makes it look like the woman teaches him this. Yet, we know that isn’t the case. What we know is that this is another outward sign that Christianity is going to be different. This is where the Evangelicals get their whole mission from. It’s the whole ballgame.

So, if you bother to let those brain cells fire you have to come to the realization that there is nothing Christian about nationalism. This is particularly true for those folks that call themselves Evangelicals (as MTG does). You cannot pledge to evangelize the world and wrap yourself in a nationalist flag.

Moreover, nationalism can’t be Christian. Nationalism calls for denying outsiders. These are the folks that are clamoring for a wall. These are the folks that are for tighter limits on refugees. These are the folks that want to cut off aid to our allies. These are the folks that are okay with Russia invading Ukraine. It’s hard to imagine any of that being Christian.

It certainly doesn’t jive with the fact that Jesus was in fact a refugee. It certainly doesn’t jive with the fact that he helped the helpless, cured the sick, and prayed with sinners. It doesn’t jive with any of that. So, either they are committed to Christianity or they are committed to nationalism. They cannot be committed to both because the term “Christian Nationalist” is an oxymoron.

Of course, that leaves the rest of us a choice. We have to ask ourselves what we are most committed to. There are times when we all want America to be more selfish and to solve our own problems first. There are times when we think we can’t accommodate more people here. There are times where we wish those people that seem to mooch off of the government tit would pick themselves by their own bootstraps. We may think all of these things from time to time, but none of them make us better Christians. They hardly make us Christian at all.

So, we have to make a choice between the better angels of our nature and the demons that make us the worst. Christian nationalism sounds wonderful before you stop to think about what you are actually talking about. We can be Christian. We can be nationalists. We cannot be both.

A Maddening Conversation

“Forget about you baby ‘Cause I’m leaving to stay.” — Linda Ronstadt

There are always those moments when you want to pull your hair out. These things never seemed to happen before the days of social media. You had conversations with people you know and when you could hear the inflection of their voice or see the look on their face you could tell what you were dealing with. Sadly, that doesn’t happen with social media.

As I pointed out yesterday, I saw an entire Twitter dialogue between a group of conservatives that just kind of made you wonder if humanity could be saved. The whole thing was about how conservatives were being nice to Brandon and hoping he would pull through his battle with COVID. Certainly, the liberal media didn’t do that in 2020 when the former guy had COVID.

Let’s immediately dispense with a couple of things. The fact that many of these folks refer to Biden as Brandon is already a sign of disrespect. We know what that’s code for and it is just too clever by half. It’s hard to consider yourself an adult in the room while simultaneously speaking in code about the current president. However, we can ignore that for now as we know damn well that many of us had our own nicknames for the former president. So, I’m not attacking on this level.

I decided to engage anyway. I don’t know why I do these things because I know how they will end. I pointed out the specific right wing talking heads that were not wishing Biden well, so I pointed out that it was hard for conservatives to collectively consider themselves an adult in the room. Of course, I also pointed out that holding all conservatives accountable for the statements of some was irresponsible. Naturally, the reverse should also be true.

The response was breathtaking. That individual told me that they don’t watch conservative or liberal news. So, they weren’t aware of OAN or necessarily all of the shenanigans on Fox or Newsmax. However, they “knew” that the ratio was about “100 to 1”. I can only guess that refers to the fact that 100 times as many liberal media members were trashing and wishing ill will on Trump as conservatives with Biden.

I asked for receipts, but that is when the conversation ended. It usually ends there. You press someone for details or to back up their wild assertions and you get radio silence. She couldn’t produce any examples of liberals trashing Trump. Hell, I almost did the work for her because I looked up critical articles at the time and found a few. What those articles did is question why the liberal media was still on the attack when he was sick. It’s hard to ignore the context. Trump denied the virus and put us behind the eight ball. Then, he gets sick and continues his public schedule knowingly putting hundreds in danger.

He shows up to the first debate and purposefully shows up late so he can’t be tested. He then is within ten feet of Joe Biden the entire night. We can credibly prove he knew he had tested positive before that debate. We can’t necessarily prove he purposely intended to infect Joe Biden. At least we can’t in a court of law (I suppose one could charge him with attempted assault or attempted manslaughter) but a preponderance of the evidence suggests he knowingly had COVID and knowingly endangered the current president and hundreds of others.

That is what we call context. That is what we call nuance. It is not simply a case of both having COVID and one being treated kinder than the other. Sure, maybe that’s true if you ignore the context and nuance. The important thing is what those people did while they had COVID. It is also important to note how each has treated the virus while president. Those things matter. To ignore those details is to ignore the whole reason why the former guy was criticized.

Of course, the other fun tidbit was the notion of the liberal media outnumbering the conservative media 100 to 1. This notion is hilarious on its face. Since the Fairness Doctrine was struck down, talk radio has been proliferated with conservatives. It’s not even close. Many markets(including Houston and Dallas) don’t have any progressive voices. Obviously, radio isn’t as dominant a medium as television, but the numbers don’t lie.

Television is admittedly more mixed depending on who you ask. One thing that is fascinating from a propaganda standpoint is the effect of conservative media on conservatives. As we can see, when you take radio and television together we could reasonably say there are at least just as many conservative voices as liberal voices. Yet, conservatives are told that liberals dominate the media. So, mainstream media sources like the major networks become liberal. We get the simultaneous effect of conservatives believing the ratio is 100 to 1 while they are subjected to a bombardment of media in the other direction. It’s a powerful effect.

So, the upshot here is that when we are having a discussion with a conservative we must speak in specifics and demand that they do the same. They have succumbed to the propaganda that “people are saying” and other such nonsense that doesn’t really mean anything. What people? What exactly are they saying? How many people are we really talking about here.? The biggest question is whether we are talking about random people or actual prominent politicians and talking heads. That’s another point of distinction we need them to make.

More Double Standards

“What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.” — A pearl of wisdom

I don’t know who said the quote above and it really doesn’t matter. We all have heard it before and we all know what it means. I teach teenagers and they are able to root out a hypocrite quicker than just about anyone. However, hypocrisy also is often without nuance. Nuance is a chalk outline at this point and most people can’t even identify the victim.

In another clip off the air (but on Twitter), Steinberg of OANN asks her followers gleefully if they think Joe Biden will die. This is usually when someone will point out that hundreds of thousands of liberals were rooting for Donald Trump to die when he had COVID and were overly gleeful when prominent conservatives actually died.

As per usual, there are a couple of problems with this point. The first is that it has that all too familiar ring of “people are saying” and other non-specifics. So, we are forced to somehow react to and answer for the unsubstantiated barbs of a faceless people. I’m not going to sit here and deny that there were people out there making such statements, but it is certainly instructive to know exactly who they are.

Were they in media? Were any of them in public office? Did we see a bunch of MSNBC anchors gleefully say they hoped Trump would die? Did we even see anyone from the Young Turks (maybe the closest mirror image to OAN) say anything like this? I honestly don’t spend hours a day watching either one, so I couldn’t tell you with 100 percent certainty. However, I am 99 percent sure that neither has an online reporter currently working for them that did anything close to that.

Therein lies the difference. I admit that it’s a subtle difference and it requires that nasty nuance thing again. There is a difference between random citizens with no clout making jokes and being crass at Trump’s expense and people in government and in mass media doing the same with Biden. So, that is just one key difference.

The other key difference is that Trump and many conservatives spent so long denying COVID and blocking common sense protocols that there was bound to be some anger on the other side. It’s also what English teachers call irony. That’s kind of hard to ignore in these situations and so hard to calculate. How much are a million lives worth?

Maybe that’s just where we are at these days. People are so angry with Brandon and the reasons seem so trivial in comparison. Gas prices are too high. Things costs too much. Certain items are harder to find. Even if we were to assume that all of this was his fault and had nothing to do with anything the former guy did, is anyone really going to try to argue that an extra 1.50 a gallon for gas is worth a human life? Is it worth our dignity? Is it worth our freedom or our sacred honor? Should I be willing to give all that up just so I can find some rawhide bones for my dog?

All that being said, this is not to excuse those that wish death upon anyone. It is wrong no matter who does it. No one should ever be happy when someone dies. They certainly shouldn’t be out loud. However, I’m not answering for some random yahoo on Twitter that posts occasionally and does whatever during their day. They may be a liberal or progressive, but I can’t answer for 80 million random people. I wouldn’t expect conservatives to either. What you can do is explain why meanness and pettiness seems to be a feature for those in conservative media and within the halls of Congress, state legislatures, and local governments. That’s the difference. Random voices in the wilderness are one thing. When they are in government or established conservative media that is something else.

Proportionality

“But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait.” — John Lennon

I usually don’t do this at night, but I just got done with the obligatory training videos we have to do every year at the beginning of the school year. Thankfully, I was able to finish those before school so I can focus on stuff that really matters when I get there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that sexual harassment, bullying, and blood born pathogens aren’t important, it’s just that they don’t change from year to year.

We had a relatively new one this year. Human trafficking. This one lasted an hour where most of them were around 30 minutes. So, this is where we feel compelled to make the obligatory statements as if they are the cover charge at the local club. Human trafficking exists and it is awful. Okay, we’ve said it and hopefully we can move on.

This seems to be the way with movement conservatives. We are forced to take things that are serious, but relatively rare as huge problems or we are considered to be uncaring. The irony is palpable. Essentially, it breaks down because those that are so “concerned” about human trafficking usually don’t understand the root causes. Either that or they aren’t concerned with addressing the root causes.

Naturally, a lot of this comes from Q’Anon, so we have to consider the source, but it is the exact same as the abortion issue. It’s a vicious cycle with these folks. They call you cold and uncaring unless you profess an overabundance of concern. Yet, when you start to suggest real common sense solutions to help with the problem it usually gets no legitimate response.

If you want to draw a ridiculous parallel let’s consider this. Bestiality is against the law in all 50 states. I would imagine it is against the law in just about every country. I can’t think of a single person that could provide any justification for having sex with animals. So, do we really need to go on and on about horrible sex with animals really is?

Listen, if you don’t come out and say that bestiality is the scourge of human existence then you must be for bestiality. We need a task force and an educational program for the kids. They need to be told about the dangers of bestiality. Imagine all of the diseases that could be caused by having sex with goats, cats, dogs, and other farm animals. Think of the psychological damage it causes for those poor animals. You must be a horrible human being unless you take this bestiality problem seriously.

Hopefully you get the point. I had a discussion with someone about this last year. I asked him point blank how many people he knew that had been trafficked. He said none. Then I asked him if he knew anyone that knew someone that had been trafficked. He then went on to talk about how he had been abused as a child. Of course, that’s not the point. Yet, it effectively shut down the discussion.

Human trafficking can be a genuine thing and be overblown at the same time. We can acknowledge its existence and acknowledge that it is awful for those involved, but also agree that the amount of focus that some people are placing on it is excessive. We can agree that the Democrats are not trafficking children. We can agree that Tom Hanks isn’t trafficking children. We can agree Hillary Clinton isn’t trafficking children in the basement of a pizzeria in a building that doesn’t have a basement.

Children aren’t being abducted in the HEB parking lot. They usually don’t find themselves abducted from school either. Obviously, that’s not an absolute. Just like I can’t say that no one had sex with a goat tonight. In order to get a handle on a problem we have to agree on its scope. People have sex with chickens. It is disgusting and wrong, but it is also rare. At least we all hope it is.

The Phantom Menace

“And I’m bleeding words. They escape me, the recoil, it hurts. And I can’t look the other way. I’m chasing starlight to find it’s died away.” — Jonathan Ng

As we move through these tricky times, we find people picking and choosing which bedrock principles they will choose to follow. These choices are based on fear. They are based on things that aren’t real and have never been real. Some of these choices are based on bedrock principles that are invisible.

Keep in mind, these were the jackasses that saw a group of protesters walking down their street. None of them actually came on the property, but what the hell, the second amendment saved their lives. Those protesters kept going after the McCloskey’s were standing on their porch with their ridiculously huge guns. Someone might take their guns from their cold dead hands, but it will be after they’ve accidentally shot each other.

Listen to any second amendment fanatic long enough and you will hear two inevitable “truths”. They need those big guns to protect them in case of a home invasion. They need those guns to protect them when the government goes rogue. Lost in the translation is the extreme unlikelihood of either of those things actually happening.

Lost in the translation is the near complete cancellation of portions of the first amendment. In particular, movement conservatives now want to cancel the establishment clause and want to tear down the walls between church and state. This isn’t rumor. This isn’t innuendo. They are saying this explicitly out loud.

We’ve discussed gun control and gun rights before. Certainly we can produce commentary from the framers that would seem to indicate a desire for unfettered access, but a broader look at history doesn’t back it up. Boil it all down and it’s all pure fantasy. It is about as meaningful as the need to protect ourselves from a rogue government or rogue home invader.

What we haven’t touched on is the seemingly randomness of holding some rights sacrosanct while others are ignored. Freedom of speech, religion, expression, and assembly is at the very heart of our political culture. The ability to travel freely and unfettered is there too. But by all means let’s have those big guns so we can protect ourselves from our neighbors and “others.” By all means, let’s protect us from a rogue government that would attack us while opening the door for them to take away our privacy and dominion over our bodies.

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

“So we cheated and we lied and we tested. And we never failed to fail. It was the easiest thing to do. You will survive being bested. Somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you.” — Stephen Stills

We’ve discussed this before to the point of obsession. I have to admit my mind becomes stuck on certain things. In this case, it is a political phenomenon that I simply have to describe. It’s the space between what people want and what they ultimately get. It is the space between popular opinion and what actually happens. I simply don’t have a good name for the gap.

A part of that is my failing. I’m good at a few things but bumper sticker slogans isn’t one of them. I grew up thinking that if I couldn’t describe something in over 100 words than I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. It’s why these things become so long-winded.

Describing why it happens is the easy part. People simply vote against their own interests and beliefs far too often. Sometimes they don’t know what their beliefs are as presented in the political realm. Sometimes they are led by their emotions to become captive to their fears and prejudices. Sometimes they know exactly what they are doing and simply want to punish their own side for their failures to implement the policies they want.

Elections have consequences and most of them are relatively close when looking at statewide or national tickets. A few percentage points here or there will turn the whole thing. For instance, in 2016 close to a million Democrats stayed home specifically to punish Hillary Clinton. Another 800,000 chose to vote for Trump to punish her. They told themselves, “what possibly could go wrong in four years?” Well…

Add almost two million votes to her ledger and she likely would have won five additional states. Plus, it’s harder to ignore an election where she won the popular vote by five million instead of three. The simple fact that we have seen this happen twice in the span of 16 years and that it happened to the Democrats both times kind of tells you something.

If you do nothing but add the judges that George W. Bush appointed along with Donald Trump and then add in the judges blocked by Senate Republicans during Obama’s presidency the results are quite frankly staggering. That literally flipped the Supreme Court from 6-3 one way to 6-3 the other way. What it has done to the entire federal bench is staggering.

That’s just the judiciary. Imagine what it has done legislatively. Imagine what it has done in the day to day mechanisms of government. Bureaucracies have been impacted. Day to day regulations have been impacted. Executive actions on weather and natural disasters have been impacted. Just imagine competent assistance during Katrina and Maria. Imagine better assistant during the California wild fires. Imagine what might have happened during the COVID pandemic. What would have happened had we handled the pandemic as most of Europe and Asia did?

It is quite simply a ripple effect. Certainly, those that believe the other side could go through a similar mental exercise. However, they can’t complain that they have had a majority and lost. It has been minority rule and it has been there for quite some time. A plurality of people identify as Democrats. Again, national elections are fairly close, but under a parliamentary system Congress would have been under consistent Democratic control. These are just facts.

The current exploits of Joe Mancin and Kirsten Synema certainly demonstrate that majorities aren’t a guarantee of anything and yet they highlight the problem. We have a 50-50 Senate. If the Senate reflected even the advantage in the House it would likely be a 52-48 Senate. Then, they become irrelevant. If access to the ballot was unfettered and fair then the advantage likely would be 55-45 with similar larger gaps in the House as well.

Admittedly, not all of that is due to people putting their thumb on the scale. Some of it certainly is. Some of it is due to people not understanding who is for what and how that impacts them. Some of it is due to younger people getting angry and refusing to participate in the process. Then, that lack of participation is used against them. Some people have gotten so angry they’ve voted for the other side. These are relatively small numbers, but they add up to huge results.

This all pays off with the gap. We look up and we get the 21st century version of the apartheid. We get climate change unabated. We get gross incompetence in times of crisis. We get a larger wealth gap. We get fewer consumer and employee protections. We get a cold and uncaring world that most of us can’t recognize. The gap between the world we want and the world we see is real. The gap is real. We should be angry. We just need to remember who to be angry at.

Two little lies and one big one

“And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song.” — Pete Townsend

Much has been said about the big lie. we could go back to Joseph Goebbels and his thoughts on propaganda. The big lie is important and it is the one that we focus on now, but there actually are three. There is the big lie, but there is also the long lie, and the shameful lie. We should start with the long lie.

The Long Lie

Donald Trump has done one successful thing in his life. He has managed to convince people he is a successful businessman. It has taken a long time, but this is the biggest of all the cons. How many bankruptcies has he had? How many business ideas have failed miserably? How much money does he actually have?

Yes, business people fail. They try things that don’t work, but it is the volume of failure that is staggering here. It is the incredibly bad timing and half-baked ideas that are mind-boggling. Who sells steaks at the Sharper Image? Who opens casinos that fail? How do these things work and how do we come to the conclusion that this guy is brilliant?

Well, if he is brilliant then he could run the country like he runs his businesses. We would be back on top in no time. Unfortunately, he ran the country exactly likes he runs his businesses. It’s why we are in the trouble we are in right now. That also plays into all of these accusations and how people interpret them. They all seem so stupid and so juvenile. How could someone so successful not only do these things, but also fail miserably at it? Well, if we understood the real history we’d understand that this is exactly who Donald Trump is.

The Shameful Lie

Watch clips of people at Trump rallies. Listen to friends and family that are strong MAGA people. Listen long enough and you will hear many of the same things. Trump did great things for us. He looks out for the little guy. He made our country great. Yet, when you ask them what he did to help them or make the country great they can’t seem to give you any specifics. The generalities they give usually have nothing to do with actually helping their situation.

The shameful part of the lie is that he did help them in some way. He gave them cover to espouse the things they want to espouse but can’t. They can’t even do it now, so they speak in code. The code involves talking about all of the things that he’s done for them. Yet, they can’t tell you what that is. They can’t tell you because they don’t exist.

The fact is that he hates the same people that they hate. The fact is that he hurts the people they hate is so much better. He angers the liberals so it warms their hearts. Some of them revel in this and openly admit it. Others have to speak in code. He’s done so many things for us. Yet, they can’t tell you exactly what he has done.

The Big Lie

We know the big lie revolves around the election, but that isn’t really what the big lie is. When you repeat the lies often enough people will believe. Not only that, but people seem to believe the bigger lies than the smaller ones. So, we focus on Hillary’s emails and Hunter Biden’s laptop. We focus on all of the insignificant stuff and ignore the huge stuff.

The media helps in this regard. They treat those things evenly. They feel like they have to give them equal time. Proportionality doesn’t exist. The press doesn’t call balls and strikes. The press makes sure there are as many walks as strikeouts. That’s obviously not the same thing.

So, the whole January 6th thing is just beyond the scope that some people can consider. They can’t understand the difference. They haven’t been made to understand the difference. That is the big lie. The big lie is that somehow what Trump and others do is somehow equivalent to the indiscretions of others.

The Deserving

“So I don’t feel alone on the way to the stone
Now that I’ve found somewhere safe to bury my bones
And any fool knows a dog needs a home
A shelter from pigs on the wing.” — Roger Waters

A few people commented on yesterday’s post. I was reminded of another event earlier in my life that might cast light on the subject. The commenter basically said that the rich don’t deserve their tax breaks and corporate welfare. I would agree except we have a fundamental problem with that line of thinking.

I remember going to downtown Fort Worth with some classmates to go watch a movie. They came upon a homeless guy and agreed to buy him a Whataburger. However, there was a string attached. He would have to accept a Bible before he would get any of the food. The bargain seemed cruel, but even worse was the assumption behind it.

See, why does he need a Bible? We are assuming that his plight is somehow connected to his lack of faith. If he had more faith then maybe he would be more successful. The Old Testament is full of these stories. Success is tied to virtue. The virtuous have success and the poor and destitute lack virtue. So, you see a homeless man that is hungry and down on his luck and it must be because he has angered God somehow. Therefore, he needs religion to get back on his feet.

Therefore, captains of industry have earned their success through virtue. They’ve earned it through hard work. They’ve earned it through doing the right thing and avoiding the wrong things. Therefore, if someone brings up corporate welfare and whether they deserve their tax breaks the answer will undoubtedly be yes. See, they do right by God and therefore they will do right if we give them the breaks. They’ve earned their reward.

What we understand is that this is really not the case. The successful people are not necessarily the best people. They may not be the most talented people. They may have just been lucky. The reverse is also true of those that struggle. Maybe they made some key mistakes or made bad choices. Maybe they were just the victims of bad luck. We have no way of knowing one way or the other just by looking at them.

Government spending can’t be about who deserves what. Government spending has to do the most amount of good for the most amount of people. Government is charged with protecting our life, liberty, and property. Government is charged with making us better people. They do that through a social safety net. They do that through public works like education, endowment of the arts, or scientific study. They do that by protecting consumers, workers, and citizens from those that would prey on them. They do that by providing security through police and our legal system.

So, the question of corporate welfare vs. welfare for the poor isn’t a question of who deserves it. It is a question of how sound an investment it is. If we help poor people escape poverty we benefit society. If we give rich people more money they usually pocket it or funnel it to stockholders. So, it is ultimately about benefit.

If we forgive college loans, offer free community college, or eliminate interest then we allow young people to spend more. They might be able to afford that first home. That first home is the start of building generational wealth. When we elevate more people out of poverty or into the middle class we benefit more. So, it is ultimately about benefit and not about being deserving.

What do we deserve?

“Would you send me packing or would you take me home?” — Roger Waters

I was reminded of a time during my childhood when a family of strangers rang our doorbell. They came in beaten and bloody and told my parents that they had an accident and didn’t have any money. They had scrapes and bruises, so they didn’t require bandages or a hospital visit. They just appeared to be more down on their luck than anything.

I may have been nine or ten at the time. It’s hard to remember precisely when this happened. I just remember my parents giving them a little bit of money and a black and white television we didn’t use anymore. I think my sister and I gave the children some toys we didn’t play with. At the end of the day it didn’t amount to very much.

Jt didn’t occur to me until much later that no one bothered to verify their story. They could have easily gone door to door using the same act and raked in numerous toys, used televisions, and small amounts of cash that add up to large amounts of cash. We certainly didn’t discuss it as a family. We just gave a little of what we had and didn’t need.

The question of whether they deserved the help didn’t come up, but it certainly comes up today. I remember years later sitting on the Pastoral Council at church and listening to how the Christian Action directors of all the local churches work together to coordinate their giving. They report on who comes in, what they ask for, and what problems they report having. It seems that a number of them encounter the same people and not all of those people are on the up and up.

When confronted with our politics it seems I have fluctuated between the nine and ten year old me and the attitudes of young adult version of me that questioned those we gave to. There are many instances where I just can’t identify with conservative ideology. Sadly, this is one where I definitely can relate because I used to think the same way.

The breakdown occurs when we ask the question of whether someone deserves assistance. It’s an innocent enough question at the outset. No one wants to be taken for a ride. No one wants to give up their hard earned money to someone capable of surviving on their own. No one wants to comfort the comfortable. We want to know that we are helping people that really need our help. It’s simple enough and yet it leads us to a very dark place.

It’s one half of a very dark and very sordid strategy to play into basic human emotions. You can imagine the simple mention of the dreaded “Obama phones” that people supposedly got. It gets us started on a cycle that spirals out of control. Why do they get free phones? Are they nice phones? How many free minutes and how much data is free? How come I have to pay for my phone, my minutes, and my data?

When you hear any mention of free tuition or college loan forgiveness that is the number one response. Why do THEY deserve it? It is the same overwhelming emotion older Americans have when they return to their high school or college alma mater. Why did this get so nice? How come they are spending all this money on them? What did they do to deserve this? Why didn’t we get this stuff?

In point of fact, it inflicts the left on occasion as well. We ask the same questions of captains of industry. Why do they get tax breaks? Why don’t they have to pay more in taxes? What did they do to deserve all of this? In many instances, how we answer those questions helps determine why we are conservative or liberal, but it doesn’t answer why we ask those questions in the first place.

Decades later, I couldn’t tell you exactly what that family in the beginning got. I certainly can’t say that we missed any of it. The better angels of our nature certainly would like to know that they turned out okay, but those darker angels might have appeared had we learned that we were just another easy mark on their way to easy luxury.

In a similar way, I don’t know how to parse out who deserves assistance? I’m certain some don’t really need it and are taking advantage of the situation. Still, it took me a long time to get there. It took me a long time to get to the place where someone’s free phone, free lunch, or free health care doesn’t cost me much, so I shouldn’t worry so much about whether they deserve it. At the end of the day, what exactly does any of us deserve anyway?

Gas, Murder, and Employment

“Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away.” — Mick Jagger

There are obviously four big things where conservatives love to attack those on the left. I’m not even going to parse the labels between liberals, leftists, and progressives. We will consider them the same thing for now and allow anyone and everyone to declare themselves. This the anti-Biden thing. Brandon has ruined everything. We have to pay more for gas, we have to pay more for other stuff. Godless heathens are murdering people in the streets of our liberal cities. You get the idea.

One of the things we have to remember about presidential politics is that elections happen on even years, but the terms begin the next year. Plus, there is a credible argument to be made that presidents have to wait for their policies to take effect. So, the first year of a presidency is really the last year of the previous presidency. We will go back to 2001 and the George W. Bush era and compare our last three presidents in terms of murder rate, unemployment rate, GDP growth, inflation rate, and the price of gas in 2022 dollars. We will separate the first year of a presidency and then average the last seven years (or three in Trump’s case).

Gas Prices

George W. Bush 2001– 2.39

George W. Bush 2002-2008– 3.29

Barack Obama 2009– 3.79

Barack Obama 2010-2016– 3.84

Donald Trump 2017– 2.86

Donald Trump 2018-2020– 2.84

So, if we were to grade these presidents just on the price of gas then Trump does end up looking good. We would have to acknowledge that he was put into a far better position to start than Barack Obama was, but still we saw a net decrease in the price of gas. So, one point for Trump.

Unemployment

George W. Bush 2001– 5.7%

George W. Bush 2002-2008– 5.5%

Barack Obama 2009– 9.9%

Barack Obama 2010-2016: 6.8%

Donald Trump 2017– 4.1%

Donald Trump 2018-2020– 4.7%

Anyone that touts Trump’s record here is not really giving Obama credit for putting him in a good place. It should be noted that price of gas was going down at the end of the Obama presidency and the unemployment rate was also going down. The opposite was true at the end of the Bush years.

GDP Growth

George W. Bush 2001– +1.0

George W. Bush 2002-2008– +2.4

Barack Obama 2009– -2.6

Barack Obama 2010-2016– +2.1

Donald Trump 2017– 2.3

Donald Trump 2018-2020– +0.6

Yes, GDP reduction in 2020 was an obvious negative effect of the pandemic. Yes, Trump’s incompetence exacerbated the pandemic. We will never know what a competent handling of the pandemic would have made America look like. We can guess based on the two almost pandemics that the Obama administration dealt with. By the way, that is not a typo for Obama in 2009. He inherited a negative GDP situation. Let me know when you start to decipher a pattern.

Inflation

George W. Bush 2001– 1.6%

George W. Bush 2002-2008– 2.5%

Barack Obama 2009– 2.7%

Barack Obama 2010-2016– 1.6%

Donald Trump 2017– 2.1%

Donald Trump 2018-2020– 1.9%

This looks good for Trump until we notice what he saddled Biden with. The inflation rate for 2021 is 7.0 percent. That’s brutal as we haven’t seen anything close to that since the staglation days of the 1970s. As per usual, Bush leaves Obama in a bad situation and Obama leaves Trump in a relatively good situation. As you might predict, suddenly the rules of giving presidents time to put their own stamp on the economy will disappear and the inflation will be Brandon’s problem. It’s utterly predictable.

Murders per 100,000

George W. Bush 2001– 6.69

George W. Bush 2002-2008– 5.64

Barack Obama 2009– 5.03

Barack Obama 2010-2016– 4.79

Donald Trump 2017– 5.32

Donald Trump 2018-2020– 6.25

Here’s the thing. We can easily come up with all kinds of excuses as to why this happened. Numbers are numbers after all. Statistics don’t really lie but we can misinterpret them. Maybe there is nothing a president can do to impact the crime rate. However, these numbers have to sit in the backdrop of a president that told us about American carnage all the while that murders were at an over 30 year low as recently as 2014. Under Trump they reached their highest point since 1997. Keep in mind, he was the only one that could fix it. He would make us safe.

Again, numbers are numbers and we have to be careful in how we interpret them. However, if one were to just look at them with no context they would see that Republicans regularly saddle Democrats with shaky economies, unsafe communities, with inflation, and high gas prices. Democrats improve the situation and leave their Republican colleagues with a better situation than they found.

Naturally, this becomes important when we consider 2022 and 2024. Everyone blames Brandon for the inflation. Everyone blames Brandon for the high gas prices. Everyone blames Brandon for the “high crime rate” that we currently have. He is just too soft. He is too ineffectual. He is just in over his head. We need a strong leader that can get things done. Well, the facts are in. I don’t know if we can take much more of that winning.